The Cribs! Joe Lean! Does It Offend You! The Ting Tings! Hold on tight…
The drums! The drums! They rattle the rafters of Newcastle’s premier Big Shed, the frazzled noggins of those DT-addled Awards Tour troopers who survived the 9am warehouse aftershow party in Manchester last night and, indeed, the quaking foundations of rock’n’roll itself. For this is the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour 2008, a viscous and vibrant cross section of British Indie Today, and there hasn’t been a travelling spectacle of
such might, mettle and magnificence since the Persians descended on Sparta. Or possibly the last Muse tour.
The drums in question are those of Jules – the skinsmith and loop technician half of The Ting Tings – and their billowing booms, along with a chirrup of “Alraaght, ’ow yer doin’?” from his Manc glam cohort Katie White, heralds the arrival of a new breed of techpop terrorism. It’s ‘Great DJ’: it sounds like ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’ being shagged ragged by Metronomy and comes waving a City & Guilds diploma in Instantaneous Dancefloor Demolition. Indeed, 20 minutes with The Ting Tings reveals a far broader scope than the varnished new rave polish of ‘That’s Not My Name’ originally suggested: there’s the John Hughes-movie reverb of ‘Keep Your Head’ that imagines The Breakfast Club skipping detention to go snuffle ketamine under Santa Monica pier, while ‘Shut Up And Let Me Go’ is far more indebted to the tribal rhythms and schoolyard yelp-raps of MIA than a frozen trouserful of Test Icicles.
“But… but… it’s all on backing tape!” snort the ‘real music or death’ broadsheet brigade, peering out from behind their defensive pile of lutes at one drummer and one guitarist playing electronic music. Uh-ERR! In fact, The Ting Tings play everything live – Katie and Jules both triggering the skipping-song synth-loops of ‘Fruit Machine’ by stomping two-footed on pedals, leaving Katie free to batter her big Ting Ting drum. That’ll be ‘ting’ – the noise something makes when it’s polished perfect.
If The Ting Tings represent the future sound of clubdom, then Does It Offend You, Yeah? are as ‘now’ as Facebook scrabble. Smoke machines! Strobes! Patterned hoodies! Vocoders! Storming onstage like the politest rave ruffians ever (Morgan: “Let’s have a round of applause for the catering crew…”) theirs is a cowbell-beating, synth-smashing riot of metal riffs and techno tearbombs that could only have come about by QOTSA decapitating Daft Punk and having the robot heads surgically transplanted on to their tatt-ravaged bodies. If ‘Let’s Make Out’ was the actual act of The Sex it so clearly wants to be, it’d be a depraved bondage and watersports session involving a Transformer shitting in your mouth and, as ‘We Are Rockstars’ reaches its Prodigy-esque crescendo with all synths in the air, Morgan’s in the photo-pit and the Newcastle Academy is utterly, ecstatically Offended.
Now, these things we know about Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong: they’re
The Teardrop Explodes if they’d been a beatpop band in 1961. They have the most sexy/skinny, arrogant/articulate, poser/pop god of a singer since J.Bo greased himself into his first pair of white jeans. And tonight we learn what a frankly stupendous filth-pop band they really are; as Joe jerks and jitters around the stage in a tatty black dish-rag of a shirt, banging snare drums and posing like a mental mod Twiglet, his sharply attired band pump out torrents of tuneage, sweeping from fuzzed-up ’50s torch song to The Horrors-if-they-were-talented psych-goths and the rollocking Maccabees pop pizzazz of ‘Lucio Starts Fires’. And Joe Lean croons majestically through it all like a Julian Cope for the post-Strokes generation.
And then, trotting indie-ly on as indie-ly as you like, swigging lager to the grand bombast of Swan Lake, here’s The Cribs; pint of indie and black with an indie top please, all chased down with a ladle of hot, steaming indie. They have the jangle of The Wedding Present, the gang chants of the Kaisers, the scree of Ash, the leather jackets and ripped jeans of The Strokes and ragged, ricochet pop tunes strong enough to stand alongside the last two decades of prime guitar pop music. The indiest band ever, you might argue, right down to the True Indie manifesto, and there’s nowt wrong with that. It was this sort of bowl-cut-and-no-arse stuff stinking of lobbed lager and hurried sex that saw us through two hip-hop wars and a new rave invasion, don’tcha know…
It does mean, however, that the quality of a Cribs song is largely determined by the catchiness of its “Who-ooo-oah!”. They’ve all got one: ‘Moving Pictures’ has a cracker, likewise ‘Our Bovine Public’ and ‘Martell’, while ‘Hey Scenesters!’ bucks the trend by rattling marvelously by on a “Hey hey!” instead. But after an indistinct half hour notable for the way all the spikey pop riffs seem to be wobbling pissed out of Ryan Jarman’s guitar, things only really click in the rapturous run through of ‘Men’s Needs’ and ‘Mirror Kissers’ up to bare-balled classic ‘The Wrong Way To Be’. As
a screen descends to show a film of Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo reciting his spoken-word piece over a monumental ‘Be Safe’, you can’t help thinking that Johnny Marr doing ‘Panic’ with them last night must have only been a secondary highlight.
Backstage, however, The Cribs’ dressing room is in lock-down. The band are unhappy with their performance and tempers are high, possibly to the point of brotherly disownment. Which might explain why the following night at Lincoln’s (surprisingly swanky) Engine Shed they take the stage leaner, meaner and with something to prove. After The Ting Tings burst through a truncated set that sees Katie break three guitars in the intro to ‘Great DJ’ alone, DIOYY suggest we make ‘Let’s Make Out’ your Valentine’s Day anthem and Joe Lean’s hook-swept romanticism shines gorgeously through (despite miming a particularly graphic blowjob to DIOYY backstage minutes before going on), The Cribs simply rage through a set that transcends all the generic and formulaic indieness they find so abhorrent in other bands. They end with Ryan shirtless and shoeless in the moshpit, Gary playing two guitars at once, stagedivers getting thrown out by security at a rate of one every three seconds, the NME Awards Tour conquered and Ross standing on the drumkit, still hammering away. Ah, all hail the drums, the drums, the drums…